vanilla bean & meyer lemon chess pie

Vanilla Bean & Meyer Lemon Chess Pie |

Citrus season reaches its peak in winter.  Isn’t that great timing?  Just as Mother Nature is dumping massive amounts of snow on many parts of the country, here in California, she is providing an abundance of tangerines, oranges, grapefruits, and lemons so that we can bask in the bright, citrusy sunshine even on the coldest days of winter.  To me, nothing says summer-in-the-middle-of-winter more than meyer lemons.

Vanilla Bean and Meyer Lemon Chess Pie4

I am lucky enough to live in a part of the country where winter brings citrus, not snow, and my meyer lemon tree is bursting with fruit (there are still about 80 lemons on the tree now waiting to be picked) so I thought I would make this Vanilla Bean & Meyer Lemon Chess Pie.  It is light, bright and full of flavor with the fresh aroma of meyer lemons – a perfect reminder of warm spring days ahead.

Chess pie is a Southern classic with timeless appeal. The buttermilk and slightly sweeter meyer lemons mellows the sweetness of the pie and the cornmeal gives the smooth custard a welcome texture. It is also remarkably simple to make.  Just remember to let the buttermilk and eggs come to room temperature so that the melted butter does not resolidify and separate from the mixture.

As weird as this may sound, I don’t own a pie tin so I use my tart pan.  So I guess this means this lemon chess pie is really a lemon chess tart.  Delicious nonetheless!

Vanilla Bean & Meyer Lemon Chess Pie
Yields 8 servings

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, homemade or store-bought
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (approximately 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, preferably from meyer lemons, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, preferably from a meyer lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional if using vanilla sugar)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Fit crust into a 9-inch pie tin. Fold the edges under and crimp. Set aside.

In a small bowl, make the vanilla sugar by combining the sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. Mix until the specks of the vanilla bean’s seeds are evenly distributed. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs briefly. Then, add the vanilla sugar, cornmeal, flour, salt, melted butter, buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract, one at a time, whisking until each ingredient has been fully incorporated before proceeding to add the next ingredient.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust, and bake until top is golden brown and almost set, about 30-40 minutes. The center will still be slightly loose and will set as it cools. Remove and place on a cooling rack.

While pie is cooling, whip the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Continue whipping, on medium speed, until the soft peaks return, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Cut pie and serve at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Adapted from Lewis, Edna and Peacock, Scott, The Gift of Southern Cooking, Knopf, New York, 2003.

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28 thoughts on “vanilla bean & meyer lemon chess pie

  1. Pingback: Meyer Lemon Pizza » Mary Makes Good

  2. I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it as an audition for holiday pie…oh my word, it’s amazing!!! I am in South Texas and the Meyer lemons are just now starting to mature. A friend has a big tree in their backyard and gave us a huge bag of them. This pie recipe is now at the top of the list of how to use up all the wonderful juicy fruit. Seriously, it’s amazing. Made it just as written – perfection! Thanks so much.

  3. Pingback: When Life Hands You Frozen Lemons… « Two Different Girls

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  5. I would love to have lemon trees in my yard!! But I think all the snow here in OH would definitely prove difficult for that. This sounds absolutely delicious though!!

  6. Pingback: Vanilla Bean & Meyer Lemon Chess Pie | designs

  7. Oh, this brings back so many memories. One of the first restaurants I ever worked at made their own lemon chess and lime chess pies. They were glorious. I always thought the cornmeal was so weird in a pie, but it taste that much more luscious.

  8. Isn’t winter citrus wonderful? We’re so spoiled in California–as if the year-round sun weren’t enough, we also get beautiful sunny citrus too. I’ve never had a chess pie, but it sounds fantastic!

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